Does the Bible teach that believers can use drums in worship?

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In the Old Testament, the Lord specified only three types of instruments to be used inside the Sanctuary by the Levites. These are: harp, lyre [or stringed instrument], and the cymbal. “And he set the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, with psalteries, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, and of Gad the king’s seer, and Nathan the prophet: for so was the commandment of the Lord by his prophets” (2 Chron 29:25; also 1 Chronicles 25:1). Of the three instruments mentioned, the harp and lyre were, essentially, the same type of stringed instrument.

Though hand drums (tambourine, timbrel or tabret) were apparently NOT employed in the sanctuary service, they were used in festivals and celebrations outside of the sanctuary (1 Samuel 10:5-6; Job 17:6; Job 21:11-14; Psalm 81:2; Isaiah 24:8; Jeremiah 31:4).

Psalm 150

Some people quote Psalm 150 as a reason for using drums in the sanctuary where David exhorted the people to use the following instruments: the trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, organs and cymbals (Psalms 150:1-6).  For these individuals, verse 1 presents a problem because it speaks of praising God “in His Sanctuary.” However, Psalm 150 has a future prophetic application for it is the great finale to the Hallelujah series of Psalms that begin in Psalms 146. Psalm 150 gives an invitation for everything (whether on earth or in heaven) that has breath to join in praise to God who will execute judgement on sin.

New Testament

It is interesting that there is no reference to hand drums being used in the New Testament. Historical records showed that drumming was banned because of their association with common and evil things. Drum rhythms have been used in pagan religious ceremonies, voodoo, shamanism, and magic rituals.

Christians should have a distinction between the pure and the worldly influences (I Jn. 2:15-17). Worshipers must not, with their music, encourage that attachment to the world that doesn’t glorify God (II Cor. 6:17). The general rule is that all instruments should be used as an aid to the voice, not an overpowering element. A continuous strong beat does not enhance the message and it turns a spiritual ministry into a sensual one.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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